McKinsey and Arne Show Optimism about Delaware

December 9th, 2010

Category: News

After disappointing news on the US performance on PISA, we have some good news—Mckinsey & Company recently released a report  “How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better” on how 20 school systems—of diverse performance, geography, culture, governance, and resource-base— have improved. All the systems relied on core principles for reform, many of which are reflected in Delaware’s Race to the Top plans.

Reading the lessons, I am optimistic about Delaware’s opportunity for change, particularly in leadership and capacity building, focused on the delivery of instruction. We are one of only a few states that is not in the midst of gubernatorial or education leadership transition. And our Governor and Secretary have used their command and the RTTT opportunity to ignite change. The RTTT plan focuses on building capacity and transforming the process of instruction through data coaches, the Vision Network, and teacher leaders—all of which build shared ownership and transform the education profession into a public culture of responsibility. If these attributes can be sustained and implemented well, we have a good chance to reach the ambitious goals we have set.

Of course, there are areas we haven’t figured out, like balancing autonomy with accountability. Even US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan admitted this is an area that needs attention in the reauthorization of ESEA. He hopes the federal government can be looser at the top and tougher on the bottom performers and that it can be more flexible in its expectations of schools, districts, and states depending on performance. Secretary Duncan also remarked that he is optimistic about spreading the “islands of excellence” we have in the “breakthrough” collective bargaining agreements in Baltimore, Washington DC, New Haven, and Tampa. And he noted that we still have an agrarian school calendar and we have not used technology to transform how to deliver education.

But, despite these challenges, he once again acknowledged the leadership we have in Secretary Lowery and DSEA President Diane Donohue. If we all maximize this opportunity in Delaware and the forces behind us, perhaps we will be one of the 20 systems featured in Mckinsey’s next report.

Madeleine Bayard



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